The year is 2214, and your computer’s dusty hard drive has just resurfaced at an antique store. Write a note to the curious buyer explaining what he or she will find there.
I’ve never been attracted to or good at science fiction or fantasy, and a response to this post would seem to fall into those categories.
I look back with irony at our delight in getting our first computer for my husband’s going-out-on-his-own business venture. It was an IBM XT 286. It ran DOS on a monochrome screen, with a 2 mg hard drive, and 128 K memory. It cost over $2,000, but gosh were we in awe of it. If we still had that computer, would there be any way to get information from it now — to translate it into what currently runs on our computers? Honestly I don’t know. I do know that we have a stack of old floppy disks, 4.5 square, and getting information off of them requires a special device we had to buy since those openings on today’s computers are long gone.
I’m leading up to my answer. If we have come this far in technology in 50 years, where will we be in 200 years. I won’t be around to witness it, but I also don’t think I can imagine it. I think what we have now is beyond remarkable, and I only use a fraction of what is possible with the devices I own.
Then there are technological advances like smart clothing that monitors body responses. There are artificial limbs that stimulate brain responses (or vice versa), and act on them. Meetings can now be held via computer, and families can see each other on a regular (and inexpensive or free) basis. Cars are being programmed with sensors so they can avoid collisions, and brakes can be applied automatically. I’m not STEM-wise enough to know all the possibilities currently being researched and applied, but each one I hear about shows that the status quo is constantly and rapidly changing.
Thus finding my computer 200 years hence would be a curiosity, of no value whatsoever, except to collectors of electronic antiques, like someone who collects medical instruments from the Civil War. I’m sure there would be no way to access anything on the computer, and even if there were, it would be like finding a diary or commentaries from the past, just as we curiously look at the horn books used in education 200 years ago and more. Textbooks like the New England Primer (1777) concentrated on the goal of early American Education, educating children so they could read the Bible and raise a new generation, and succeed in their farming and household duties. What a difference from what is taught in schools now!
When you go to places like Mount Vernon there are docents dressed in Colonial costume and sometimes re-enactors doing things as they would have been done in George Washington’s day. This is what explaining to someone about my computer would be like. Not only would the note have to contain what the object is, but something about life in the 2000’s. How do you envision 200 years of progress — choose the right words to describe what a computer is or was? And what stage of development the world was at in 2014?